Chapter 33 – Man in black

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“Kale! Did you find the buck” Rhett’s words barely escaped his mouth.

“Well, looks like quite the party here, doesn’t it?” A man dressed all in black followed in behind Kale, who had found the bucket.

“What do you want?!” Lars’s voice boomed.

“Easy, easy. I’m just lost out here. I was abandoned by my “friends” after drinking last night.”

“Why didn’t you make your way down towards Nha-Stop then? That place is open twenty-four hours a day, there is even a sign at the bar pointing towards it.”

“Was there? Hmm, I didn’t notice it. Looks like I picked the wrong direction. I haven’t found anything besides a dump of a church this way, well, that, and now you guys.”

Lars furled his brows. “You better make your way back. The bar will be opening up again soon and I’m sure you could hitch a ride with someone there.”

Grant looked at Lars, questioning his attitude. Why was he being so hostile? He didn’t picture Lars as the type to refuse to help out a stranger. He had done all he could to help both Grant and Rhett since they arrived here. Not that it bothered Grant though, he had a hard time trusting people too.

“Why don’t we give him a ride, Lars?” Kale asked.

Lars’s eyes twitched. Grant noticed Lars’s arms started to shake a bit, and his face grew a tone redder. Lars opened his mouth, but words from Rhett came a bit quicker.

“Why didn’t you just wait at the bar last night? Surely there would be no good wondering out in the open fields trying to find your way back to civilization. Especially with all the roars of the lions.” The words shocked Grant. Rhett too? He always seemed like the type to help out anyone in need. Or did Rhett only say that to help quell the outburst that looked to be ready to burst out of Lars.

“Ahhh, well.” The man scratched the back of his head. “I guess I don’t really have an answer for that. I suppose it was just an instinct to go out this way, and I haven’t heard anything about lions. Anyway, I can tell you guys don’t want me here, so I’ll take off. Later.” The man made his way out through the field of tall grass.

Kale turned around and watched him leave. Carrying the bucket, he made his way back to the fish. “I’ll handle this.” He gripped the fish, unhooked it, and plopped it into the bucket. The bucket clanged about as the fish wriggled around.

Grant could feel the tension between Kale and Lars. Maybe they weren’t on such good terms as he thought.

“Kale, please don’t invite strangers to come with us. Especially ones that appear out of nowhere in the middle of nowhere.” Lars hastily drank another can of beer. “Especially with the rumors of the man in black.”

“Man in black? Who’s that?” Grant asked.

“People say the murders that have taken place weeks ago were done by someone of that description.”

That didn’t sound accurate. Grant had been keeping a close eye on all the details of those cases, and not a single hint had been posted in the newspaper. No one had any clue at who was behind the murders, yet Lars seemed pretty sure he knew something about it.

Kale’s eyes only stared out into the lake, keeping silent. He appeared to know something too, different to what Lars may have known. He gave no sign of approval or disapproval to the words that spewed from Lars’s mouth.

Regardless, it was probably in the best interest of all of them to avoid such a suspicious encounter, even if the man didn’t seem hostile. 

“Interesting, I haven’t heard of him yet,” Rhett said. “It never hurts to be safe..”

“Kale what do you do with the seashells you collect?” Grant asked.

Kale continued looking into the lake. “I create things.”

“Like art?”

“Yeah, I guess you could call it that. I had a friend who loved gluing them together and-” Kale abruptly paused for a moment. “Yeah, I just like creating sculpture type things I guess. I thought it was weird at first, until I tried it.” 

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Grant remembered Elijah used to do the same thing, he always found it odd. He never knew of anyone else to do that. “Hah, that’s odd. I thought my brother was the only one who did things like that.”

Kale gave no response for a time, but eventually turned to face Grant. “Yeah, I don’t think it’s common.”

“Hey, Kale you’ve got a fish on your line!” Lars leapt forward in his seat, pointing. He already had four empty cans of beer down by his feet. “Reel it in!”

“Yeah, I’m getting to it.” Kale lifted up with a swift throw of his arm, and reeled it in, appearing annoyed.

The fish was a bit bigger than Grant’s catch. Kale took it off the line and lifted it towards him, as if showing off a trophy. “This is going to taste great, I could almost eat it raw.”

He tossed the fish into the bucket and sat back down, putting bait on his hook and casting his line back out.

—–

Night grew closer and everyone still sat by the lake. The bucket was completely full of fish now and Kale had a hard time looking away from it.

“Can we get back and start cooking now? It’s gonna be night before we know it,” Kale said.

“Yeah sounds like a good idea to me,” Rhett said, as he wobbled getting to his feet.

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“I un know whatcher talkin’ abut!” Lars, tipping side to side said as he slammed down another drink.

“Let’s pack up guys, I’ll drive.” Kale stood, lifted the bucket of fish, and stood before Lars. “Your keys.”

“Tch, but werr havin’ so much fun!” Lars said, stumbling on his feet.

Lars sat on the beach while Grant and Rhett helped bring the chairs and fishing rods up to the truck. Kale walked up the hill keeping his eyes on the fish in the bucket. When they made it to the top they debated leaving Lars until he sobered up, as he appeared to be having fun by himself. In the end, they decided to be nice and help him up the steep incline.

Kale and Rhett helped walk Lars to the truck as Grant followed behind, carrying the cooler. He had to stop occasionally to catch his breath. Water swished around inside as well as cans of drinks battered against the sides with every step he took. He was thankful that Rhett and Lars drank so much, it made his struggle to carry the cooler easier.

Rhett and Kale had already made it to the truck and threw Lars in the passenger seat. Grant set down the cooler for a final time and heard the crack of a branch behind him. He turned his head in a swift motion.

“Hello..?” Was there an animal running behind him?

“Be careful…” A voice answered back. Grant frantically searched the area, not finding the source of those haunting words. He picked up the cooler, and booked it up to the truck.

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